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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Leaked review tells of ‘Significant Design Vulnerabilities’ at Hanford radioactive trash site

Hanford-waste-tanks‘Significant Design Vulnerabilities’ Plague Massive Nuclear Waste Site, Leaked Internal Review Reveals, Common Dreams, 

‘The fact that the Department of Energy has not released this report, prepared last year, is alarming and indicative of a safety-last culture.’

by Andrea Germanos, staff writer 26  Aug 15, 

A leaked internal review of the nation’s largest nuclear clean-up site found hundreds of “significant design vulnerabilities” and begs questions about the Energy Department’s transparency, a watchdog group says.

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington houses radioactive waste from the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons, and the decades-long clean-up effort has been costly and plagued by leaking underground nuclear waste storage tanks.

Seattle-based Hanford Challenge, which advocates for safe clean-up of the site, says it received the Department of Energy document from a whistleblower who has worked at the site for many years as an engineer.

“The fact that the Department of Energy has not released this report, prepared last year, is alarming and indicative of a safety-last culture,” said Tom Carpenter, Executive Director of the group.

The document is a 2014 draft review called “Low-Activity Waste Facility Design and Operability Review and Recommendations.” That LAW facility, Hanford Challenge explains in a statement, “is designed to treat waste from Hanford’s high-level nuclear waste tanks that will be pre-treated to remove the highly-radioactive materials before being mixed with glass formers in a facility designed to vitrify the low level waste.”

From the executive summary of the leaked report: ……

The leaked review comes the same month as whistleblower Walter Tamosaitis, who raised safety concerns regarding operations at the site, reached a $4.1 settlement with Hanford subcontractor AECOM.

And last year, documents obtained by the Associated Press showed there were “significant construction flaws” in some of the double-shell storage tanks at the facility. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) urged the Energy Department to provide an action plan of how it would deal with the risks the flaws pose, writing in a letter (pdf) to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz: “It is time for the Department to stop hiding the ball and pretending that the situation at Hanford is being effectively managed.”

The Washington site has proven itself an “intractable problem” that “costs taxpayers a billion dollars a year,” author and history professor Kate Brown wrote earlier this year. “Corporate contractors hired to clean up Hanford have made hundreds of millions of dollars in fees and surcharges, and, since little has been accomplished, the tab promises to mount for decades.”http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/08/26/significant-design-vulnerabilities-plague-massive-nuclear-waste-site-leaked-internal

August 28, 2015 Posted by | safety, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Boeing wanted to quietly dispose of radioactive trash, without accountability

judge-1Judge rejects Boeing’s bid to demolish and dispose of radioactive waste without accountability Eturbo News, SANTA MONICA, CA, Jan 2015  – Sacramento Superior Court has denied Boeing’s motion for summary judgment in a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit over the demolition and disposal of radioactively contaminated structures from the site of a partial nuclear meltdown near Los Angeles, Consumer Watchdog said today.

“This is an important step on the way to ensuring that state regulators must consider the demolition and disposal of any radioactively contaminated structures at the Santa Susana Field Lab in their environmental assessment of the cleanup of this site,” said Consumer Watchdog Litigation Director Pam Pressley.

text-SMRsBoeing had claimed that the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has no regulatory
authority over the demolition and disposal of radioactively contaminated structures in the nuclear portion of the Santa Susana Field Lab (SSFL) in Simi Hills. The lab had tested small-scale nuclear reactors, rocket engines, and fuels and suffered a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959 that has never been fully cleaned up……http://www.eturbonews.com/54422/judge-rejects-boeings-bid-demolish-and-dispose-radioactive-waste

August 28, 2015 Posted by | Legal, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Lockheed Martin used government nuclear money to lobby for more government nuclear money

money-lobbyingLockheed Martin fined for using government money to lobby for more government money,  http://theweek.com/speedreads/573689/lockheed-martin-fined-using-government-money-lobby-more-government-money The Week,  Bonnie Kristian, 25 Aug 15, 

Defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin has agreed to pay a fine to settle charges that the company illegally lobbied for a major government contract using federal funds. Lockheed targeted members of Congress and the Obama administration from 2009 to 2014, using money that had been allocated for research in a previous federal contract.

This is not the first time the contractor has used tax dollars to lobby for additional income. The Energy Department investigation that exposed these lobbying habits suggested Lockheed “felt empowered [to lobby this way] because it had improperly directed federal funds to similar activities in the past.”

The contract Lockheed unethically sought was worth $2.4 billion annually, and the company’s 2014 revenues totaled $45.6 billion — but the settlement payment was just $4.7 million. It’s a “slap on the wrist for the world’s biggest defense contractor to pay,” according to Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, who argues that Lockheed “engaged in deep and systemic corruption” which should result in criminal prosecution.

August 26, 2015 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

St Louis suburb contaminated by radioactive thorium

ThoriumNuclear Waste Taints St. Louis Suburb,   Radioactive thorium found at residential properties is linked to nuclear-weapons work done decades ago ,WSJ, By  JOHN R. EMSHWILLER Aug. 23, 2015

Radioactive contamination has been discovered at three residential properties in the St. Louis area, adding fuel to a long-running controversy about how much damage was done to the environment and possibly people’s health by nuclear-weapons work performed there decades ago.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which disclosed the finding last week, said it was the first time it found such contamination on residential properties while cleaning up waste related to weapons programs in the St. Louis area……….

For years, the Corps has been cleaning up largely industrial and commercial sections in the St. Louis area that were contaminated as part of the weapons-program work that began during World War II. The national legacy of radioactive and chemical contamination from the atomic-weapons program, including its impact on St. Louis, was examined in a 2013 Wall Street Journal series.

The contaminated residential properties are near Coldwater Creek, which, which has been at the center of ongoing tensions over the past few years runs through suburban areas northwest of downtown St. Louis and passes an area formerly used to store weapons-program waste.

Federal officials have long acknowledged contamination got into the creek, which feeds into the Missouri River, and included it in their cleanup work. How far the taint was carried has remained a question.

Current and former residents of nearby areas have argued that contamination from the creek had spread into their neighborhoods during periods of flooding and they have pushed for extensive sampling of houses and yards. They also contend residents have suffered from an unusually large number of cancer cases and other maladies possibly linked to radioactive contamination………

Last September, the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services wrote a letter to federal authorities saying it had found a significantly higher incidence of leukemia in areas around Coldwater Creek though it hadn’t determined whether there was a link to weapons-program contaminants. It asked them to join in a health study.

Last week, a spokesman for the state health department said it is still in discussions about what steps to take next. The St. Louis County Department of Public Health is putting together its own health-study effort, said its director, Faisal Khan.

“The community around Coldwater Creek continues to have severe concerns about their own health and how much their health problems might be related to where they lived,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which was invited to participate in the study, didn’t have an immediate comment. In the past, the agency has said it was working with state officials and referred questions to them.

Write to John R. Emshwiller at john.emshwiller@wsj.com   http://www.wsj.com/articles/nuclear-waste-taints-st-louis-suburb-1440361689

August 26, 2015 Posted by | environment, thorium, USA | Leave a comment

Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty backs Iran nuclear agreement

Esty supports Iran nuclear agreementhttp://www.newstimes.com/news/article/Local-congresswoman-announces-support-of-Iran-6464745.php, August 25, 2015  Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, D-5, announced Tuesday her support of the Iran nuclear agreement.

Esty said she thoroughly reviewed the deal negotiated between the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and Germany that aims to curb Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon in exchange for sanctions relief before making her decision.

“I have attended classified briefings, examined classified materials, and sought answers,” Esty said. “I have met to discuss the agreement with my constituents, Jewish leaders throughout Connecticut, national security and nuclear energy experts, and Israeli leaders during my recent trip to Israel…After careful consideration, I believe implementing this agreement — which is far from perfect — gives us the best chance to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

Esty said the deal limits Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, and also contains provisions that allow sanctions to return if the agreement is violated.

“This agreement is not ideal, but is the best available option,” Esty said. “I have listened to critics and constituents raise legitimate concerns — concerns that I believe will help guide the United States in our duty to enforce Iran’s compliance with the agreement and ensure that they meet not just the letter of the agreement but also its spirit.”

August 26, 2015 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Another mysterious death, of sailor exposed to Fukushima radiation

Third US Navy sailor dies after being exposed to Fukushima radiation
Monday, August 24, 2015 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer (NaturalNews) At least three of the U.S. Navy sailors exposed to radiation from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan have now died from mysterious illnesses, according to Charles Bonner, an attorney representing approximately 250 of the sailors in a class action lawsuit against companies involved in running the Fukushima plant.

Bonner said in a July 21 update on the case that more than 250 sailors have come down with illnesses and three have died. “We had one of the sailors who came home and impregnated his wife. They gave birth to a little baby born with brain cancer and cancer down the spine, lived for two years, and just died in March of this year.”…….http://www.naturalnews.com/050902_Fukushima_US_Navy_sailors_radiation.html

August 26, 2015 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

In lead-up to its license review, Indian Point nuclear company targets its propaganda to women

buyer-beware-1Reisman: Indian Point’s information war to counter nuke plant mishaps http://www.lohud.com/story/opinion/columnists/phil-reisman/2015/08/21/nukeplant–mailers-license-renewal/32130213/ Phil Reisman, preisman@lohud.com10:48 a.m. EDT August 22, 2015

Columnist Phil Reisman looks into the information campaign by Entergy Corp. to counter bad Indian Point publicity. The corporate owners of the Indian Point nuclear power plant are trying to win the hearts and minds of the citizenry.

Not long ago, two slickly produced fliers from Entergy Corp. came to my house — and I assume also to thousands upon thousands of other homeowners who live within a 50-mile radius of the controversial plant.

The cover of one flier shows a smiling woman lifting her head to a blue sky, taking in the air. Her eyes are closed. She appears to be blissfully lost in an intoxicated swoon.

“Breathe Easy,” it says. “Clean Energy Means A Cleaner Environment.”

Inside the flier, the environmental theme is carried further. Nuclear power reduces greenhouse gases, it says, citing research that 1.8 million lives have been saved because nuclear power doesn’t pollute the air like fossil fuels do.

The other flier features a woman in a business suit holding a red pen. “New Yorkers need affordable energy sources to create jobs,” reads the copy. Claims are made as to the economic benefits of Indian Point — among them an annual infusion of $1.6 billion to the regional economy, 1,000 local jobs and $75 million in property taxes.

Both pieces of mail seemed to be aimed at women, and perhaps chiefly suburban soccer moms who may not be totally convinced that Indian Point is “safe, secure, vital.”  Some polls show a gender gap on the issue of nuclear energy.

That the fliers were also addressed to my wife adds credence to the supposition.

Targeting a specific demographic audience is hardly unusual. Earlier this summer, it was reported by Time Warner Cable’s News NY 1 that Entergy had mailed fliers to a section of Brooklyn with a large African-American population.

The content of that mailing included a statistic that 4.5 million African-Americans suffer from asthma and that 71 percent of blacks live in places with high air pollution — the idea, of course, being that, without Indian Point, the air would be dirtier and more people would suffer from respiratory illness.

This has been an especially bad year for the creaky nuke complex, which had several unplanned shutdowns, raising serious concerns about the plant’s age, safety and maintenance standards. It experienced its third transformer explosion and fire in eight years in May, a mishap that caused thousands of gallons of oil to spill into the Hudson River

Against that backdrop the public relations campaign seems obvious. But none of the technical woes at Indian Point are mentioned in the slick Entergy fliers.

Nor is it stated anywhere that the federal license for the perpetually troubled Unit 3 reactor expires in December. In its report, NY 1 interviewed Assemblyman Nick Perry of Brooklyn, who observed, “Every once in a while, the nuclear folks in Westchester get concerned about their license, and they try to pump up some support for their operation there.”

Well, Perry hit the nail on the head.

After the transformer fire, there were renewed calls for the permanent shutdown of Indian Point.

In his blog, Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay pounded the energy facility when he wrote: “We must face facts regarding the Indian Point nuclear plant. Its infrastructure is aging, its safety is dubious, and most everyone knows it.”

Gallay cited the usual concerns about radioactive waste and Indian Point’s proximity to an earthquake fault. But he seemed to be directly answering one of the Entergy fliers, which pulled a quote from Mike Bloomberg, who said that, when he was New York City mayor in 2011, “There is no alternative to the energy that we get from Indian Point.”

In contradiction, Gallay said new technologies are being developed that will allow the nuclear plant to be replaced “at little cost to taxpayers.”

License review and renewal is within the purview of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But that doesn’t leave state and local politics  completely out of the equation. Entergy officials know that public opinion matters, which is why they spent what must have been a small fortune on the fliers, which resemble campaign material for political candidates.

They are telling everyone to “breathe easy,” while holding their breath all the way to December.

August 26, 2015 Posted by | spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Sandia Corporation has to pay back tax-payer money used for nuclear lobbying

Lockheed Martin Nuclear Subsidiary Fined for Paying Lobbyists with Federal Funds, TIME, Patrick Malone  Center for Public Integrity Aug. 24, 2015

The Sandia Corporation has agreed to reimburse the Energy Department after allegedly spending federal funds on lobbying instead of national security’

A private corporation that operates a U.S. nuclear weapons laboratory agreed on Aug. 21 to pay the federal government $4.79 million to settle Justice Department allegations that it illegally used taxpayer money to lobby for an extension of its management contract.

The payment by the Sandia Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin that operates Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, resolved claims that the corporation violated two laws that bar such a use of federal funds.

It followed by nine months a restricted-access report by the Energy Department’s inspector general that accused Sandia of improperly trying to win a new contract without competition by lobbying senior Obama administration officials and key lawmakers with funds taken from its existing federal contract.

In his report, Inspector General Gregory Friedman described the company’s tactics as “highly problematic,” “inexplicable and unjustified,” and recommended that the Energy Department pursue reimbursement of the funds. A heavily-redacted copy of the report wasobtained by The Center for Public Integrity in June under the Freedom of Information Act.

“The money allocated by Congress for the Sandia National Laboratories is designed to fund the important mission carried out by our national laboratories, not to lobby Congress for more funding,” Benjamin C. Mizer, chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said in a six-paragraph news release late Friday announcing the settlement……..

The settlement leaves open the door for the Justice Department to file criminal charges associated with the investigation, according to the eight-page formal agreement signed by representatives of Sandia and the Justice Department, which was obtained by the Center.

Sandia and Lockheed documents cited by Friedman described an extensive lobbying plan that targeted then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu, his family, friends and former colleagues at another nuclear lab, as well as key members of Congress. The effort, which occurred between 2008 and 2012 according to the Justice Department, was meant to block other companies from competing for a $2.4 billion a year contract to manage and operate Sandia National Laboratories. Its contract was set to expire in 2012.

The Justice Department barred Sandia Corporation from paying its multi-million dollar settlement and associated legal costs from its direct federal contract revenues. But Clark said the corporation planned to pay the fine from award fees – essentially bonuses for good performance – that it has previously received from the federal government. The amount represents 8 percent of the bonus payments Sandia Corporation received while the lobbying effort was under way, according to federal contract records………http://time.com/4007950/nuclear-weapon-sandia-lockheed/

August 26, 2015 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

New measures to promote rooftop solar, by President Obama

US President Barack Obama unveils measures to encourage solar power use,SMH, August 25, 2015 GARDINER HARRIS. The Obama administration has announced a slew of small measures designed to encourage the use of solar power in the US hours.

The measures included making an additional $US1 billion ($1.4 billion) in loan guarantee authority available in an existing federal program for the kind of residential rooftop solar projects that have become popular in places like California.

But none of the announced measures would provide the impact on the solar industry of the Clean Power Plan, which was announced this month and requires states to cut carbon emissions by an average of 32 per cent. That plan provides strong incentives for much of those reductions to come from the development of renewable energy resources – exactly what executives at the conference in Nevada are looking to sell.

“We’re going to make it even easier for individual homeowners to put solar panels on their roof with no upfront cost,” President Barack Obama told the summit. “A lot of Americans are going solar and becoming more energy-efficient not because of tree huggers — although trees are important, just want you to know — but because they’re cost-cutters.

With the nation’s new electrical needs growing only modestly, renewable power executives are depending on electric utilities finally retiring their aging coal-fired power plants and replacing them with renewable power sources. That process is happening anyway, but the administration’s power plan is expected to accelerate it……..http://www.smh.com.au/environment/us-president-barack-obama-unveils-measures-to-encourage-solar-power-use-20150825-gj71e8.html#ixzz3jsRuU7g4

August 26, 2015 Posted by | decentralised, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Escalating costs, expanding timelines, cast doubt on the future of modular nuclear construction

Fitch: ‘Failure’ of new nuke construction means fewer plants  https://www.snl.com/InteractiveX/Article.aspx?cdid=A-33617164-10551  , Thursday, August 20, 2015  By Matthew Bandyk The troubled construction of new nuclear reactors in Georgia and South Carolina will likely chill the pursuit of more nuclear plants in the U.S., although recent actions by the U.S. EPA and the Department of Energy could improve the outlook over time, according to an analysis by Fitch Ratings.

As a result, there will be less new nuclear to replace the increasing number of retiring plants. Fitch said that the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s forecast of nuclear generation falling by 10,800 MW by 2020 might be too conservative if more plants retire due to local political pressure and the need for costly upgrades.

The nuclear projects at the Vogtle and V.C. Summer plants, the first new nuclear generation built in the U.S. in decades, use the Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC AP1000 reactor design, which promised to be cheaper and more efficient to build than past nuclear plants that saw spiraling cost overruns during construction. In particular, Westinghouse touted the “modern, modular” construction technique in which major plant components would be built off-site as modules, allowing pieces of the project to be completed in parallel and in turn speeding up construction.

But “the recent failure of modular construction to deliver lower prices and shorter timelines will likely keep a cap on U.S. nuclear development into the midterm,” Fitch analysts said in a statement Aug. 20. The Vogtle and Summer projects are each running about three years behind schedule and are now expected to cost a few billion dollars more than originally estimated.

The blame for much of the delays has been centered on subpar work on the modules at facilities like Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. N.V.‘s Lake Charles fabrication facility in Louisiana. CB&I has since shifted work to other facilities, and monitors of the Vogtle project recently reported that the module work has “improved significantly.” But the contractors continue to miss their own deadlines and there is still risk of more delays, the same monitors said.

In addition, four AP1000 reactors under construction in China are also seeing rising costs and delays, Fitch noted.

One of the best hopes for the U.S. nuclear industry comes from the EPA’s recently finalized Clean Power Plan, according to Fitch. The rule allows new nuclear plants and capacity uprates at existing plants to generate credits that states can use to reduce their CO2 emissions levels and comply with the rule. In addition, the DOE continues to try to lower the financing costs for the nuclear industry through loan guarantees. Last year the DOE said it is accepting applications from nuclear developers for $12.5 billion in loan guarantees.

Both the EPA and DOE efforts could “yield growth factors longer term,” Fitch said.

August 24, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Disposal of nuclear waste turning out to be half the cost of reprocessing with MOX fuel

MOXDisposal beats MOX in US comparison  http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-Disposal-beats-MOX-in-US-comparison-2108151.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter  21 August 2015

America is reconsidering how it will dispose of 34 tonnes of plutonium as the previous plan involving a MOX plant has been said to be twice as costly as a dilution and disposal option in a leaked Department of Energy (DOE) report.

The plutonium arises from a June 2000 nuclear weapons reduction agreement with Russia under which both countries would put 34 tonnes of plutonium beyond military use. Russia opted to use its plutonium as fuel for fast reactors generating power at Beloyarsk.

The USA, meanwhile, decided to build a mixed-oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel plant at Savannah River, where the plutonium would be mixed with uranium and made into fuel for light-water reactors. The design is similar to Areva’s Melox facility at Marcoule, but modified to handle metal plutonium ‘pits’ from US weapons and their conversion from metal to plutonium oxide. It is this part of the process that has been problematic. Construction started in 2007 with an estimated cost of $4.9 billion but work ran into serious trouble before being ‘zeroed’ in the DOE’s 2014 budget, putting development on ice.

The Union of Concerned Scientists yesterday published what it said was an unreleased DOE report that compared the cost of completing the MOX plant to other options. Use in fast reactors was considered briefly, but with this technology not readily available in the near term, the prime comparison was against a ‘dilution and disposal’ option which would see the plutonium mixed with inert materials and disposed of in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, in New Mexico.

Despite being 60% built, the MOX plant still needs some 15 years of construction work, said the leaked report, and then about three years of commissioning. Once in operation the plant would work through the plutonium over about 10 years with this 28-year program to cost $700-800 million per year – a total of $19.6-22.4 billion on top of what has already been spent. Not only is the price tag very high, but the timescale is too long: the report said this would not meet the disposal timeframe agreed with Russia.

The cost of the MOX plant could not be mitigated by income from sales of the MOX fuel because the regulatory process to gain approval to use MOX would be too burdensome for a commercial utility. The report said “it may be unlikely” that even a utility in a regulated market where fuel costs are passed on to consumers would “bear the risk of MOX fuel even if it is free”.

Dilution and disposal would cost $400 million per year, said the report, “over a similar duration” as MOX, working out at close to half the cost. Other advantages for dilution and disposal are that it requires no new facilities to be created or decommissioned after use, although the increase in WIPP disposal means “it may eventually become desirable to explore expansion of WIPP’s capacity” beyond currently legislated limits. This unique geologic disposal facility was said to be of “tremendous value to both DOE and the State of New Mexico”.

August 24, 2015 Posted by | Reference, reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

Guilty plea from Russian official in USA graft case


Russian official to plead guilty in US court over graft in cooperative nuclear weapons destruction program,
Bellona, August 20, 2015 by   charles@bellona.no

Vadim Mikerin, a former executive with the Russian state nuclear fuel conglomerate Tenex has agreed to plead guilty in the US to money laundering and bribery charges in connection to a cooperative disarmament deal between Washington and Moscow, The Wall Street Journal reported………

Mikerin is the second major Russian nuclear official in a decade to be felled for defrauding a cooperative US-Russian nuclear program. The first was Yevgeny Adamov, former chief of Minatom, Rosatom’s predecessor.

Three US nationals, Daren and Carol Condrey, and Boris Rubizhevsky, were also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the case, various public documents from the US Attorney General’s office in Maryland show.

Mikerin was initially arrested on October 29, 2014 on charges of accepting kickbacks from uranium deals between Russia and the United States under the expired Megatons to Megawatts cooperative disarmament program.

He was denied bail and has remained in jail in Washington, D.C. since his arrest, the Russian Legal Information Agency Rapsi reported.

The disarmament program

Between 1993 and 2013, Russia down blended 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium for sale to and use in US commercial reactors under the HEU-LEU, or Megatons to Megawatts program……….http://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/2015-08-russian-official-plead-guilty-us-court-graft-cooperative-nuclear-weapons-destruction-program

August 24, 2015 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

USA Defense experts give unwise advice on new generation nuclear weapons

Beware the Nuclear Experts, Defense News,  By James Doyle, an independent nuclear security specialist supported by the Ploughshares Fund and non-resident associate of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. August 20, 2015 In their July 13 Defense News commentary, Clark Murdock and Thomas Karako advocate a mobilization of America’s nuclear weapons industry to build a new generation of forward-deployed, low-yield nuclear weapons.  Their commentary is a summary of recommendations from their “Project Atom” study recently completed at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). America should think twice before heeding the advice of these so-called nuclear experts.

Nuclear deterrence is risky business to be sure, but Murdock and Karako’s recommendations suffer two fundamental flaws: They ignore the lessons of history and neglect a fundamental requirement of nuclear strategy. That requirement is the need to assess how America’s nuclear weapon deployments will be perceived by her potential nuclear-armed adversaries.

With respect to Murdock and Karako’s recommendation that the United States develop and deploy additional “tactical” nuclear weapons to its NATO allies, it is critical to remember that we have been down this road before. We know that deployments such as those proposed by the CSIS study can increase rather than decrease the risk of nuclear war by miscalculation.

In the early 1980s the United States deployed the stealthy nuclear ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) to the UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Italy, and the highly accurate Pershing II nuclear ballistic missile to Germany.

These deployments, ostensibly in response to the Soviet Union’s deployment of its SS-20 nuclear ballistic missile, came at a time of high tensions between Washington and Moscow. The GLCMs and Pershing II together provided the US and NATO the theoretical potential to launch a nuclear strike destroying the Soviet political and military leadership in eight to 10 minutes from the time the Pershings were fired.

This led the Soviets to believe that they could only inflict similar nuclear damage on the West if they launched their nuclear forces immediately following the reception of warning of a NATO nuclear attack, but before the incoming NATO and American nuclear weapons detonated on their forces.

This need to “launch on warning” under extreme time constraints is the classic definition of lowering the nuclear threshold, not raising it, as is desired….

The idea of “controlling nuclear escalation” in Europe or any other nuclear-armed region was discredited decades ago. As the authors admit, “the distinction between strategic and nonstrategic nuclear weapons is long obsolete and any use of a nuclear weapon could have profound strategic effects.”………

The fundamental basis of nuclear strategy is not only to be prepared to retaliate to a nuclear attack but also to see the balance of nuclear forces through the eyes of your potential nuclear-armed adversaries.   In other words, in the nuclear age your adversaries’ sense of security becomes your concern.

No side prevails in a nuclear exchange. Both will suffer consequences that far outweigh any advantage that was sought by their initial use. Only the maintenance of a strategic dialog, serious efforts to reduce tensions and the establishment of operational and diplomatic means to resolve periodic crises can avoid nuclear war. These are the essential lessons of the Cold War……….

The real danger is when both sides lack an understanding of the mentality of the other. Deploying another generation of mini-nukes as urged by the “Project Atom” report without seeking to improve this understanding through diplomatic means will make nuclear war more likely. http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/commentary/2015/08/20/beware-nuclear-experts/32083997/

August 24, 2015 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear plant Vogtle – another cost increase approved – now up to $2.97 billion

nukes-hungryGeorgia energy regulators approve 12th Plant Vogtle construction update http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/blog/capitol_vision/2015/08/georgia-energy-regulators-approve-12th-plant.html?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Issue:%202015-08-19%20Utility%20Dive%20Newsletter&utm_term=Utility%20Dive

Aug 18, 2015, The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) signed off Tuesday on the latest update from Georgia Power Co. on construction at the nuclear expansion at Plant Vogtle.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve $169 million the utility reported spending on the project during the last half of last year. That brings Georgia Power’s cumulative construction and capital costs to date to $2.97 billion.

In approving the 12th semi-annual update Georgia Power has submitted to the PSC since the construction of two additional nuclear reactors at the plant south of Augusta, Ga., was authorized in 2009, the commission rejected requests from environmental and consumer advocacy groups concerned that a 39-month delay in the project’s scheduled completion is driving up customer costs.

Commissioner Stan Wise argued Atlanta-based Georgia Watch’s request that the PSC consider the costs of achieving the same additional electric generating capacity with wind and solar projects as an alternative to nuclear expansion was inappropriate.

“It’s not going to change anything we do at Vogtle,” he said. “Wind and solar are going to run their own course, like any product does.”

The commission voted in 2013 to postpone consideration of who should pay for cost overruns at Plant Vogtle – Georgia Power’s shareholders or its customers – until after the first of the two new nuclear reactors goes into service. Under a revised timetable Georgia Power submitted last winter, that won’t come until 2019.

August 23, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

South Carolina court blasts state’s environmental protection agency over poor oversight of leaking nuclear waste dump

 Court blasts DHEC for failures at nuclear waste dump  BY SAMMY FRETWELL sfretwell@thestate.com, 17 Aug 15  COLUMBIA, SC 

For the second year in a row, the S.C. Court of Appeals has ripped the state’s environmental protection agency for failing to properly oversee a leak-prone nuclear waste dump in Barnwell County.

But this time, the appeals court isn’t telling regulators when to resolve problems at the 44-year-old site.

In an Aug. 12 ruling that disappointed landfill critics, the court backed away from requiring a specific timetable to improve conditions at Chem-Nuclear’s dump near the Savannah River.

Last year, the appeals court ordered the Department of Health and Environmental Control and site operator Chem-Nuclear to develop a written plan for correcting problems within 90 days. Both then appealed for a rehearing, which delayed the 90-day requirement and ultimately resulted in last week’s decision.

Sierra Club lawyer Bob Guild said this year’s decision leaves DHEC — the agency that has failed to properly manage the site — the discretion to react to the court ruling at its own leisure.

“We have an agency that has been lawless for years in not enforcing its own regulations, and now, the court is giving it another open-ended opportunity to review itself,’’ Guild said. “That is unfortunate. We are going to monitor this very carefully.’

Guild’s group filed suit 10 years ago in an attempt to force tougher disposal practices at the unlined landfill, where radioactive tritium leaks first were detected in the 1970s. A plume of tritium extends downhill from the site and has for years trickled into a creek that flows toward the nearby Savannah River.

Sierra Club officials say DHEC has been lax in making Chem-Nuclear follow rules at the disposal site through the years.

The appeals court acknowledged problems, saying that DHEC “failed to enforce the law of South Carolina’’ in monitoring the 235-acre landfill outside the town of Snelling.

The court said DHEC, as the agency overseeing Chem-Nuclear’s activities, did not enforce a handful of specific regulations established to protect the environment. It also said Chem-Nuclear had failed to follow some of the rules on nuclear waste disposal. Except for the timetable, the court’s decision last week was similar to last year’s ruling that took DHEC and Chem-Nuclear to task.

“It is important that DHEC enforce its own regulations and require Chem-Nuclear to take action to comply with the technical requirements,’’ the ruling said in sending the matter back to DHEC for consideration……….

An array of critics, however, say tritium is still toxic and often is a forerunner of other, more dangerous pollutants that will one day wash into groundwater. Leaks were discovered within a decade of the Barnwell County site’s opening in 1971, despite initial assurances from state regulators.

The disposal site once took low-level nuclear waste from atomic power plants, hospitals and other places from across the country. Today, the landfill is open only to South Carolina, Connecticut and New Jersey, and waste volumes have dropped sharply. But the Sierra Club has pressed ahead with its 2005 lawsuit, saying better disposal practices will prevent tritium leaks from getting any worse.

One of the major concerns centers on rain that falls into open burial trenches. Environmentalists for years have pushed the state to require the placement of tents or roofs atop the burial trenches. That would cut down on the amount of rain that pours in, picks up radioactive pollutants from the waste and leaks through the bottom of the landfill and into groundwater, they say.

The court said Chem-Nuclear had done nothing to keep rain out of the burial pits, even though a state regulation says it is supposed to minimize movement of water in the pits. And the court said DHEC had not forced the company to comply with the rule intended to keep rain out of the pits — or acted to prevent rain from leaking through the bottom and into groundwater………http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article31585892.html

August 23, 2015 Posted by | Legal, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

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